Kettle Falls’ heads down NE 2B home stretch

Vining continues his solid pitchingIt has been a process and a project this spring for a mostly inexperienced Kettle Falls baseball team long on youth and generally short of pitching.The Bulldogs (5-5, 6-7) picked up a Northeast 2B (Bi-County League) doubleheader win over Springdale last Tuesday and split a non-league doubleheader with host Priest River of the Idaho Panhandle’s Intermountain League on Thursday.THIS WEEKKettle Falls was at Reardan (0-8, 3-9) on Tuesday for a key NE 2B doubleheader. The Bulldogs of coach Landon Johnston will travel to Spokane on Saturday to face St. George’s (1-7, 1-11) in a twinbill. The first game gets underway at noon.Kettle Falls will end the regular season next Tuesday with a doubleheader at home against Davenport. The first game will get underway at 3 p.m.“This is an important stretch for us,” Johnston said on Monday. “We need to make up some ground (on league-leading Lind-Ritzville/Sprague, NWC and Colfax).”With games against two of the weakest teams in the NE 2B, that should be a realistic goal.Certainly, the Bulldogs, winners of four of their last five games, are getting quality starts from staff ace Tyler Vining. KFHS tends to play well behind Vining, although run support of the big junior right-hander has been sketchy at times.Sharp in opener against SpringdaleBut in Vining’s latest start, a complete game 10-0 whitewash of Springdale (3-7, 3-7) on April 17, he got plenty of offensive support, although the Bulldogs nursed a 1-0 lead behind Vining until KFHS plated five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and four more in the sixth to break the game open.Vining (2-2) went the six-inning distance, scattering three hits, fanning 10 and issuing no walks. He struck out the side twice during the game and was in total command.“Tyler just pitched lights out,” Johnston said of Vining, who is getting stronger with each outing. Kettle Falls got all the runs they would need in the first inning when leadoff Devin Thompson walked and came around to score on a pair of infield outs.In the Kettle Falls fifth inning, Brandon Thomas laced a two-run double. Hot-hitting shortstop Nathan Disque continued his torrid pace, lacing an RBI single. Vining also had an RBI single in the inning.Thomas, Disque (four RBIs) and Vining all doubled in the four-run sixth inning.Kettle Falls committed only one error behind Vining.Kettle Falls also stole five bases.Cook sharp in reliefIn the second game, KFHS started slowly, but picked up the pace with five runs in the third inning, four in the fourth and five more in the fifth inning. The Bulldogs collected 10 hits and took advantage of five Springdale errors.Thomas went three innings and got the second game win for KFHS. He surrendered four runs (two earned), scattered five hits, struck out two and walked three.Catcher Logan Cook, who came on in relief of Thomas in the fourth inning, rolled his ankle during the doubleheader, but stayed in the game. He was effective on the mound and threw out two base runners from behind the dish.Cook struck out four in his two innings of work. He didn’t allow a run, a hit or a walk. For Kettle Falls, seven of nine starters hit safely in the nine-hit attack.Disque was 2 for 3 and had three RBIs. He had seven on the day. Cook and Thomas both had a pair of RBIs (doubles). Freshman Stacy Schauls was 2 for 3 with three runs scored.Kettle Falls dropped a 7-6 decision to Priest River in the opener of last Thursday’s doubleheader in north Idaho. Brent McNeill got a rare start and threw 3.2 innings for the Bulldogs. He surrendered seven runs (six earned) and gave up five hits. He struck out six and issued eight walks.Jeff Thomas came on in relief and worked 2 1/3 innings (one hit, no runs, one strikeout and three walks).Walks kill“Clearly, those 11 walks were the difference in the first game,” Johnston said.One of the highlights of the opener was the first hit of the season by little-used foreign exchange student “Kei” Ching. His RBI single came in the fourth inning.KFHS, trailing 7-3 heading into the top of the seventh, rallied for three runs and had the tying run in scoring position (third base) when the game ended.Disque and freshman Brady Hansen had RBI singles in the inning.Disque was 3 for 3 with three runs scored and an RBI. VIning was 2 for 2 with an RBI and a run scored.In the second game, Reuben Winter went the distance to register his first win for KFHS. The senior went 5 1/3 (called because of darkness) and gave up three runs in the 5-3 win.He scattered four hits and struck out eight. He issued three walks.Kettle Falls collected four hits, but drew 10 walks. The Bulldogs committed only one error behind Winter.McNeil stole a pair of bases. He has 11 steals in as many attempts.